Making an impact

By Senitra Horbrook
shorbrook@sjnewsco.com

The world is Crystal Olivero's oyster.

"I have no idea where my life is going to take me," she said.

That doesn't stop the 21-year-old from Middletown, N.J. from finding innovative ways to pursue her interests and career goals as a senior at Rowan University. Olivero is an Early Childhood Education major and theater minor who has created a yoga class for kids and founded Once Upon a Stage, a children's theater club at Rowan. She also maintains a 3.5 grade point average.

"My education and grades are extremely important," she said. "I have very high standards for myself, especially in my teaching courses. A B+ isn't good enough."

Olivero decided education was something she enjoyed after teaching a class of first graders while in high school.

"I was naturally good at it," she said. "It really made me feel good at the end of the year the students had actually learned something."
Olivero reads the book 'Llama, Llama, Red Pajama' to her children's yoga class at Rowan University. Listening in are Adam Legg, 4, and Julie Legg, left, and Dayna Rodgers with 7-year-old Gabrielle Rodgers.

Yoga was something that Olivero did in her free time.

"I got into yoga because I had stress issues and a little depression. It helped me relax," she said.

Olivero read about yoga for kids and thought it would be something cool to do. She became friends with her yoga instructor and got certified through YogaFit in March 2006 to teach adult yoga, however, her main goal was to teach yoga to children.

She made a proposal to the Recreation Center at Rowan and practiced teaching kid's yoga at a library near her home over the summer. When Olivero returned to Rowan in the fall of 2006 she began teaching there and now is in her third semester of leading the kid's yoga class. She was certified in kid's yoga in the spring of this year.

"Kid's yoga is very playful ... a lot more movement, singing, running around and storytelling," she said. "They learn Hatha yoga, but they learn it differently."
Crystal Olivero does an exercise during her children's yoga class with 4-year-old Adam Legg and mom Julie running behind.

In kid's yoga, teachers are allowed to modify the traditional poses. While doing downward dog, they'll bark. In the dragon pose, the kids will roar. In the turtle pose, the kids will pretend they're turtles hiding in a shell.

According to Olivero, yoga helps kids to calm down and focus as well as teaches them breathing, flexibility and self esteem.

"There's no competition," she said. "There's no one being the best and it's a lot of fun."

The theater club that Olivero founded as a freshman also allows her to incorporate her interests in both theater and education. Once Upon A Stage is open to theater, dance and child drama students at Rowan University. Every year, the club puts on a family friendly performance. This year, Once Upon A Stage members will be doing "The Hobbit" on Nov. 9, 10 and 11. The club also holds free workshops for children in the community. Earlier this month, eight children participated in the workshop where they created a story and acted in it.

"Our goals are to have students experience theater as a player, playmaker and audience," she said.

Throughout her time at Rowan, Olivero has also completed multiple internships including working for the Trinity Youth Project, a South Jersey-based educational theater company, and serving as a summer intern at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

After graduating, Olivero is considering going on to get a Master's degree in education. She hopes to eventually teach in an Abbott school district in North Jersey.

Olivero credits her family with helping to make her a well-rounded person. She says visits to museums and the zoo as a child also impacted her life.

"I have a very loving and supportive family that keeps me grounded and inspires me to be the best I can be," she said. "My parents instilled a love of learning at an early age."

For schedules, cost or more information on Kid's Yoga at Rowan University, contact the Rec Center at (856) 256-4900.

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Date Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - 11:32